Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

High School Graduation Rates of Potential First Generation College Students: A Qualitative Case Study

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

High School Graduation Rates of Potential First Generation College Students: A Qualitative Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

In an era that emphasizes the need for students to become competitive in a global society as well as earn a college degree, high school graduation rates in the United States are troubling; the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that over a half million students have left school before graduation during each year over the past decade (McCallumore and Sparapani, 2010). Every school day, more than 7,200 students exit American public high schools without a diploma; the majority of dropouts are impoverished minorities who are likely to attend large, urban schools (Swanson, 2010). Children living in poverty tend to be concentrated in low-performing schools staffed by underprepared teachers (Murnane, 2007). It is estimated that more than a quarter of all students and over forty percent of Hispanic and African American students do not graduate from high school on time; the majority of students that fail to graduate with their peers are likely to dropout (Legters and Balfanz, 2010).

A profile of 2008-09 dropouts in Baltimore schools shows that almost half (48.2%) of dropouts were ninth graders, 25.4% were in the tenth grade and remaining dropouts were nearly evenly divided between the eleventh and twelfth grades (MacIver, 2011). Almost three in four dropouts were seventeen years of age or older (MacIver, 2011). Most dropouts (79.2%) exceeded the normal age for their grade level (MacIver, 2011). Dropouts were more likely to be male (57%) than female (43%); female dropouts earned more credits (6.0) than their male counterparts (4.7) (MacIver, 2011). Disproportionately, dropouts were more likely to be in special education (29.3%) in comparison to the representation of special education students among all high school students (16.7%) or among graduates (11.2%) for the same school year (MacIver, 2011).

Specifically, the nation's largest minority group, Latina/o students make up 23.1 percent of the population that is under 18 years of age (Johnson, 2011). In contrast, the dropout rate among Latina/o students in 2009 was 9.2 percent compared with 3.9 percent for whites and 6.6 percent for blacks, according to the Pew Hispanic Center (Johnson, 2011).

A myriad of research studies forecast a dismal future for adolescent, African American males in public schools. Typically lagging behind their peers academically, African American males tend to be underrepresented in rigorous academic programs, e.g., advanced placement courses or activities for gifted and talented children, and more likely to be placed in programs for the learning disabled (Laura, 2011). With social and economic challenges posed by conditions of poverty that may be combined with a lack of discipline, inadequate schooling too frequently becomes a pipeline to privatized prisons for a disproportionate number of young African American males (Laura 2011).

The impact of this graduation crisis disproportionately affects the nation's most vulnerable youth (Swanson, 2010). Students who leave school without a diploma pay a steep price for dropping out (Educational Testing Service, 2005; Orfield, 2004). The consequences of dropping out of high school has the potential to increase the likelihood that youth without a diploma may become entrapped in a permanent underclass including increased rates of unemployment, lower wages and greater rates of incarceration (The Education Trust, 2005). While there are some exceptions and not every dropout faces a bleak future, the disadvantages, however, are substantial in a nation whereby the lack of a high school diploma can prevent entry into many highly skilled jobs and white collar professions (Menzer and Hampel, 2009). Our society also pays a high price when youth do not graduate through higher crime rates, increased need for public assistance, fewer tax dollars, and lower participation in voting (Menzer and Hampel, 2009).

According to a study from Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, "Diplomas Count", the United States is showing gradual signs of increasing graduation rates for 2008 after two decades of decline; however, persistent gaps in graduation rates exist for students from minority backgrounds in comparison with their more advantaged counterparts (Swanson, 2011). …

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